Letter to the Campus from President Ken Dobbins

January 20, 2012  

Dear Colleague,

Welcome back for the Spring 2012 Semester.   I hope you enjoyed the time away and are ready for what looks like a very challenging Spring Semester.

Proposed State Appropriations for FY 2013

You may have heard or read the media reports regarding Governor Jay Nixon's proposed higher education FY13 budget which would reduce appropriations for higher education for a third straight year (FY11 - 5.2% decrease; FY12 - 7% decrease).  His FY13 budget proposal would reduce appropriations for each Missouri college and university by 12.5% which would provide $118 million of the estimated $500 million revenue shortfall needed to balance the state's budget.  This would equate to a permanent $5.2 million net reduction in state appropriations for Southeast which reduces our state appropriations to the 1996 level without factoring in inflation. 

You may recall the Board of Regents' strategic planning sessions with Dr. Bill Weary in March, 2010, where we began preparations for what we knew would be challenging budget years ahead.  We started making tough decisions several years ago by eliminating/consolidating academic and nonacademic programs; consolidating/reducing positions; reducing operational costs; redesigning the benefits and scholarship packages; and minimally increasing tuition.  Additionally, we have implemented creative program delivery strategies such as winter intersession, state-wide collaborations, course redesign, and new strategies for summer session.  Finally, our enrollments have fortunately continued to grow which assists in offsetting some appropriation reductions, and we are pleased the outlook for Fall 2012 is very encouraging.  However, while we have anticipated and planned for possible appropriation reductions, a double-digit appropriation reduction for FY13 will make our budget balancing extremely challenging.

Where do we go from here?  It is my opinion that we cannot compensate for a 12.5% appropriation reduction in one year and we cannot simply raise tuition to replace an appropriation reduction of this magnitude.  For the past two decades, we have successfully utilized our Budget Review Committee in our budget planning process.  Additionally, for the past decade, our Academic Program Review Committee has been responsible for a full review of all of our areas of study.  We will depend on these two committees, our Administrative Council, and the leadership in each division to find additional ways to balance this challenging budget situation.   Fortunately, our one-time rainy-day funds can be used to bridge some shortfalls over several years until our revenues increase or until expense reductions are implemented.

It is apparent that we will have to continue making some tough decisions and looking for additional operational efficiencies.  Since we have these successful planning processes in place, we will be continuing to look for ways to compensate for the 12.5% reduction.  For instance, we will immediately look at all vacant positions to determine whether or not any consolidation of duties might be warranted.  We also will review those cost-saving initiatives that were suggested in our last round of budget review open forums and perhaps utilize some of those that were not implemented at that time.  To allow all faculty, staff and students to be involved in finding ways to reduce our expenses or increase our revenues and to be informed about possible options, we will be scheduling several Budget Open Forums during the semester.

Please remember that the state budget formulation and approval process is just beginning. It is apparent the Governor and the General Assembly will have a difficult time making choices on the revenues and expenses needed to balance the state budget.  However, due to the large state revenue shortfalls, regardless of what the higher education reduction is, we believe the reduction will be significant and we must plan accordingly. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Dinner

We want to thank Brandi Brooks, assistant director of Admissions, and Dr. Francisco Barrios, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who served as co-chairs for the very successful annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner this week.  We also appreciate the efforts of Dr. Sophia Scott, interim assistant to the president for Equity and Diversity Issues, who provided administrative assistance with this event.  We again had a large crowd of more than 1,000 people, with almost 500 students in attendance, and were well supported by local community, civic, social and church organizations, and many of our academic and administrative University departments.  Thanks to all who served on the planning committee and to all who supported an event which our speaker, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, described as one of the best Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration events he had ever witnessed.

Southeast in the Year 2020

Subcommittees for the Southeast in the Year 2020 initiative are continuing to work on draft reports and are still seeking input from all faculty, staff and students before final reports are issued later this semester.  Since these reports will be used as planning documents for the next several years, it is important that the entire University community have a voice in the University's future.  Therefore, a series of open forums have been scheduled to present the updated draft reports based on a Fall Semester Open Forum, and to seek further campus input.   The subcommittees for Student Services and Student Demographic Changes will hold an open forum at noon, Wednesday, February 22, 2012, in the University Center Ballroom B (Party Room).  The subcommittees for Technology and Curriculum, Academics, and Academic Programs will hold an open forum at noon, Wednesday, February 29, 2012, in Glenn Auditorium of Dempster Hall.  And the Role of Faculty Subcommittee will hold an open forum at noon, Wednesday, March 28, 2012, in Glenn Auditorium.  Please look for details in Newswire and plan to attend these open forums.

Learning Management System

As you may know, we no longer have the technical support for OIS, our current Learning Management System (LMS).  Consequently, a Quick Quality Improvement Program (Q2) Committee for researching and possibly purchasing a Learning Management System was created last semester and has been studying and developing criteria for the possible selection of a new LMS for Southeast. Dr. Allen Gathman, associate dean for Online Learning, is chairing the Q2 Committee which has broad representation from throughout the academic divisions and Student Government.  The selection of a Learning Management System will affect the entire Southeast Missouri State University community; therefore, committee members are working to keep you informed throughout the process. To that end, a Web page has been created at link removed.  You can check this site to find your area's representative and to review the important documents guiding the committee's efforts, including selection criteria for the next LMS.  Dates for vendor demonstrations will be scheduled in the near future and you are urged to attend all vendor presentations so you can provide input to your committee representative.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Gathman at agathman@semo.edu.

Organizational Changes

Due to a number of ongoing University academic initiatives, the Office of the Provost has announced two personnel reassignments.  Dr. Sophia Scott has been named Interim Dean of University Studies and will direct the University Studies program in addition to handling part-time interim duties as Assistant to the President for Equity and Diversity Issues.  A faculty and staff committee has been working on a redesign of one of the fundamental courses in the University's nationally renowned University Studies program - UI 100 First Year Seminar, which is required of all beginning students and transfer students with less than 24 degree credit hours. 

Dr. Scott has taught UI 100 for a number of years; is a member of the UI 100 course redesign committee and taught one of the pilot redesigned UI 100 classes.  As a recent chair of the Faculty Senate, she has a University- wide perspective on the issues and needs of the students and faculty involved with the University Studies program.  The reassignment of University Studies to Dr. Scott will provide Dr. David Starrett more opportunity to concentrate on his multiple assignments as he serves as Director of Kent Library and Dean of Academic Information Services, supervises the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning, and is the liaison to the Higher Learning Commission and chair for the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), the accrediting process for Southeast Missouri State University.  Dr. Starrett will also play a leadership role in the University's compliance with new federal regulations regarding the assessment of student learning outcomes.          

These personnel actions, effective January 23, 2012, have been made on an interim basis due to several factors.   We will need to take some time to see if this division of responsibilities will work well for both the University's academic programs and for Drs. Scott and Starrett.  In addition, we are facing probable reductions in our future state appropriations and we will be investigating further ways we can operate more efficiently and effectively on fewer dollars.  


We have some very challenging issues to discuss and important decisions to make during this Spring Semester.  Be assured that we will continue making our first priority maintaining the highest quality academic programs and addressing the needs of our outstanding faculty, staff and students.  As the University of First Choice, we will not jeopardize the quality education we offer here at Southeast even in the midst of challenging economic times.  Thank you in advance for your patience, your resourcefulness and most importantly your constructive input as we face these challenges together.

Again, welcome back and have a great Spring Semester.


Ken Dobbins


Academic Hall 144
One University Plaza, MS 3300
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701